Kosovo hopes Croatia will support its bid to join EUSAIR
ZAGREB, 29 May 2022 – Kosovo wants to join the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), a forum in which ten countries cooperate in transport, tourism and environmental protection projects, and hopes that Croatia, which will take over the presidency next year, will support it.
The ten countries – Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and San Marino – met in Tirana from 16 to 18 May, where they adopted a joint declaration calling for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.
A Kosovo delegation led by local government minister Elbert Krasniqi was in Tirana at the time and did not attend the meeting, but met with representatives of the European Commission.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and only participates in cross-border cooperation projects with North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro under the EU’s IPA programme.
Speaking to Hina, Krasniqi said that “the Adriatic-Ionian initiative can only be complete when all countries have joined”.
“This initiative provides opportunities for exchange and joint benefits in tourism, the green agenda and mobility, which is important for all countries. It also provides a European perspective,” he said. “It is legitimate for us to be part of it (EUSAIR). This way, our citizens would also have additional opportunities.”
For Kosovo to join EUSAIR, the consent of all its member states is required, but Serbia is blocking it.
A European Commission official who took part in the Tirana talks said on condition of anonymity that Kosovo had asked to join, but that its government understood that it would have to wait for the situation to normalize. EUSAIR could grow, the official added.
EUSAIR is currently chaired by Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which Croatia will take over the presidency on May 31, 2023.
“It will be difficult during the BiH presidency, but after that our membership will be realistic,” Krasniqi said. “The process of joining EUSAIR is clear, it is the consensus of all countries, and Serbia is part of it. We must continue to come together and find the right solution.”
In Tirana, the Kosovar and Serbian delegations did not meet.
“We will once again put our wish to join EUSAIR at the center of our agenda. We will try to negotiate it. Kosovo should not be denied the right to be part of it. inclusion, not exclusion and isolation,” he added. Krasniqi said.
Kosovo has great plans with neighbors like Albania and Montenegro, and it’s a shame it doesn’t have any with Serbia and EU member states like Italy, he said. he adds.
“We are confident that Croatia will support Kosovo’s aspirations. We hope to officially become a partner during the Croatian presidency,” Krasniqi said.
The Tirana meeting took place in the presence of State Secretary of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andreja Metelko-Zgombić. She said the meeting did not discuss Kosovo’s EUSAIR membership.
Speaking to Croatian journalists, she said Croatia’s interest and position was that Kosovo should be included in all initiatives, including international organisations. “I hope that in the near future Kosovo can take a step in this direction.”
Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by all but five EU member states, including Greece.
“These are really important and concrete projects for citizens that raise standards. These projects are in everyone’s interest,” Metelko-Zgombić said of EUSAIR.
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